We have a few pet peeves about the modern day egg. As a matter of fact, we are so PEEVED that we are making this a series with a challenge at the end. (And there might even be a special giveaway drawing for those who do the challenge.)
Benefits of Eating Good Pastured Eggs
If you have never sourced a good egg/chicken from your local farmer, you may not know that you are likely missing out on some great nourishment. A GREAT egg is satiating. There is NO comparison to a store-bought egg and a properly pastured chicken egg. Let me say it again -- THERE IS NO COMPARISON. I am satisfied for HOURS longer on a properly pastured egg than a store-bought egg. Now I can already hear some of you saying, "But pastured farm fresh eggs cost $5+ a dz!" Granted . . . but how much does that mid-morning snack cost you? Or how much more do you eat at lunch and dinner because your morning breakfast was less than filling? The Weston A Price Foundation website has an article on pastured egg nutrition here. Some additional nutritional benefits of PASTURED over conventional store-bought eggs: 1) 2/3 more Vitamin A 2) Up to 7 times more beta-carotene 3) 3 times the Vitamin E 4) Twice the Omega-3 Fatty Acids which is severely deficient in the modern American diet 5) 4-6 times more Vitamin D Just so you know, we don't advocate that more expensive is better! You have to do the research. I once paid $8 a dz for eggs that were supposedly pastured, but the yolks were anemic looking and pale. The farmer said all the 'right' things about what they did to make the eggs, but there was a clue that he was not being truthful -- the egg yolk. When I asked why they were so pale, she told me, "The longer an egg sets on the shelf the darker it gets, so fresh eggs will be paler." UM, that is CRAP! Just read this article again by the WAPF and it states that the opposite is true. Think about it. If that were true, then commercially produced store-bought eggs would be "fresher" than most farm eggs???? NO WAY! Don't believe it -- pastured eggs will be dark yellow or orange in color. In 2007, Mother Earth News asked several pastured farmers to submit eggs for testing and compared these against the conventional store-bought brands. Here are the startling results in favor of pastured eggs. Notice that Joel Salatin (we love him... you should too) is on this list and ranks as the highest in nutritional value in many areas.
Basics About Chickens and Eggs
The best eggs come from chickens on pasture. Period. Just because you buy a dozen organic eggs at the store does not make them PASTURED! Cage Free eggs are not PASTURED (as they only have to have access to the outside by one tiny little door). Now, what eggsactly does this mean? (We like dumb puns, too... sorry.) The best pastured chickens are ones in which the chickens are free to roam outside to their hearts' content. There are several ways that a farmer can do this. But one of the best ways to protect a flock from predators is to have a moving fenced area with a roosting coop on wheels. Farmers must have a place for the girls to lay their eggs otherwise he/she will not be able to find the eggs in the field. Hens like the privacy of a roosting house to lay their eggs So, a simple roosting house that moves is a great tool for the farmer when he/she moves the girls to another field for more grub. The reasons that pastured chickens, and thus the eggs, are better for you to eat is because:
- Chickens forage for their own food which is natural to their species (happy chickens).
- They are in the sunshine which allows the Vitamin D to concentrate in the eggs.
- The more grub they forage for the less 'feed' they need.
- Omega-3 is higher in concentration in pastured chickens
About Chicken Feed
I was told by a local farmer (who does it right and follows a Joel Salatin model of raising chickens) that unless chickens are foraging in a more forested area where bugs abound (most do not), then they need supplemental feed. This is a pretty standard practice for chicken farming and very unlike raising cows which are herbivores and can live on grasses and hay alone. So, what should be in the feed? A mixture of alfalfa/clover, grains, a protein, and maybe some grit (dirt, sand small gravel to imitate pasture dirt to help break down the feed and act as teeth). For the protein, MOST chicken farmers, including some of the best, use SOY. Because of my (Jen) soy intolerance I have searched high and low for the perfect soy free chickens and eggs. IT's.NOT.EASY! What are acceptable protein options other than "evil soy"? There are a few:
- Soak the grains in WHEY
- Milk mush or yogurt (real farm yogurt not store-bought crap)
- Flax seed (but I am wary of the phytoestrogen content in flax, so I am not easily swayed by farmers that promote this)
- Beans and legumes
- Fish meal (but there may be some sustainability issues here as the ocean is being over farmed and fish meal in not part of a chicken's natural traditional diet)
There may be others, but these are some of the ones that I have heard about. BTW - another pet peeve we have with chickens on the market today are ones that are proclaimed to have a VEGAN or VEGETARIAN diet. Even a 5 year old knows that chickens naturally eat things such as WORMS and GRUBS! To think that a farm is "ethical" because it feeds its chickens a VEGETARIAN or VEGAN diet is not ethical at all. And you can be certain that those farmers are either using this as a marketing ploy or these chickens cannot possibly be on pasture! Because if they were, the chickens would naturally be looking for protein in the form of bugs and meaty meals. (However, their feed SHOULD NOT contain chicken or beef by-products as that is NOT natural to the species diet!)
Happy Chickens Make the Best Tasting Chicken and Eggs
What does stress do to your body? It's not good, right? Well, it has the same effect on animals. Chickens need to be chickens. And pasturing is just one way to keep your chicks happy, and thus, your eggs tasting GREAT. But there are other things that you need to know about some standard farming practices. Chickens are territorial. And the older chicks tend to be more aggressive towards the more submissive chicks. Because of this MANY farmers (mostly commercial and even cage-free) will cut off the chickens' beaks to keep them from pecking each other to death. Pastured chickens can still be aggressive. But it happens less often because the submissive chicks are able to keep clear of the dominant aggressive chicks. Now think about this . . . how does a chicken with no beak forage for food on pasture? They don't! This is a very important question to ask your farmer! DO YOUR CHICKENS KEEP THEIR BEAKS?
How Do You Source Good Eggs (and Chickens)?
Good question! You have to learn the art of asking your farmer specific questions. In Part 2, we will list questions for you to ask you farmer. But, you have to be bold - not rude, but bold. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Food you buy at the farm is almost always more expensive than grocery store food. There are several reasons for this that we will address in another series. If you are paying good money for your food, you need to make sure it has what you need. Otherwise, find the best you can get but keep looking for other farmers. And don't get hung up about the COST of the eggs. I am convinced that a good egg is one of the BEST investments in my real food diet (the other would be pastured bones for bone broth!). If I have to cut corners on cost, I will go with a cheaper, leaner meat (as toxins store in the fat) before I will go cheap on the eggs. And we are convinced that if you try our challenge at the end of this series, you will understand WHY we say this. A good egg will save you money because you will eat less throughout the day. Pin It
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